Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve


Yes, another Anita Shreve book, but are you surprised?  She has very quickly become one of my favourite authors, and this book is another great example of her powerful writing.

Sea Glass is begins in the summer of 1929 - right before the stock market crash.  Shreve establishes the somewhat happy lives of newly-weds Honora Beecher and her husband, Sexton.  And also other characters that create an ensemble later in the story: Vivian, the socialite; Alphonse, the young boy sent to work in the local textile mill, and McDermott, a man working in the mill but with such a depth of character that one cannot help but be interested in his life, his thoughts.

In 1930, the mill workers strike, and because of hard luck, Sexton Beecher is one of these workers.  His character becomes more and more volatile, Honora becomes more and more noble.  She forges an unlikely friendship with Vivian, a likely love with McDermott.

The end of the book is the most heart-breaking, unexpected twist.  The strength of Honora's character is something that doesn't leave the reader when the book is closed.  Shreve was able to conjure the desperation of living in 1930 in a way that uncannily brings her characters to life.  It's what makes her such a powerful writer: her characters become so real in our own lives that we become invested in their future for however long we know them.

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